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Jamil Ahmad, Jerry Pinto, Amitav Ghosh on South Asian lit prize list

Posted on Oct 16, 06:27PM | IANS

A total of 16 South Asian fiction writers including Jamil Ahmad, Jerry Pinto, Amitav Ghosh and Musharraf Ali Farooqi are in the race for the prestigious DSC Prize for South Asian literature reflecting the diversity and social complexities that set Asian narratives apart from the rest of the world.

The longlist for the prize announced in the capital Tuesday feature a mix of best-sellers and emerging talent.

The list includes Jamil Ahmad's "The Wandering Falcon", Alice Albina's "Leela's Book", Tahmina Anam's "The Good Muslim", Rahul Bhattacharya's "The Sly Company of People Who Care", Roopa Farooki's "The Flying Man", Musharraf Ali Farooqi's "Between Clay and Dust" and Amitav Ghosh's "River of Smoke".

Other contenders are Niven Govinden's "Black Bread White Beer", Sunetra Gupta's "So Good in Black"; Mohammed Hanif's "Our Lady of Alice Bhatti"; Jerry Pinto's "Em and the Big Hoom"; Uday Prakash's "The Walls of Delhi"; Anuradha Roy's "The Folded Earth", Saswati Sengupta's "The Song Seekers", Geetanjali Shree's "The Empty Space" and Jeet Thayil's "Narcopolis".

The longlist was chosen from 81 entries for the USD 50,000 prize from writers around the globe by a four-member jury of K. Satchidanandan (chair), Muneeza Shamsie, Rick Simonson, Suvani Singh and Eleanor O'Keefe.

The jury will deliberate, for a month, on the shortlist that will be announced Nov 20 at the Mayfair Hotel in London. The winner will be declared at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival January 2013.

"The values were looking for in the works were many; novelty of the theme, freshness of narrative strategies used as well as the idiom and the contribution the work makes to the makes to the genre in general," Satchidanandan said.

Writer and publisher Namita Gokhale, who was on the panel for discussion on the longlisted novels, said: "The staggering variety of South Asian voices was wonderful".

"There is so much magic realism in our daily lives and so many stories to tell," Gokhale told IANS.

The list did not surprise Udayan Mitra, publisher of Allen Lane and Portfolio imprints of Penguin Books India.

"Most of the books on the list were well-received and well-reviewed. It is quality. This has been a year that has seen really strong books," Mitra said.

The publisher, who handles non-fiction, said "one way of describing the publishing trends in the country was to say India was becoming a publishing hub".

"Another way of putting it is to say that our readership is exploding at all levels. In the mass market categories, we are seeing numbers we couldn't dream of. We are reaching readers who were traditionally not readers- the first generation readers. This doesn't reflect in literary fictions. It will take time to reach there," Mitra told IANS.

Manhad Narula of the DSC Group said "he was excited by the fact that prize was helping South Asian fictions commercially to reach international publishers".

The prize set up in 2011 has been won by Pakistani writer H.M. Naqvi ("Home Boy") and Shehan Karunatilaka ("Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew").